Corporal Brandy Bates, a member of Female Engagement Team 8, and a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., plays with a group of children on the sidelines of a soccer match played by Marines, interpreters and Afghan National Security Forces after a recent children’s shura hosted aboard Forward Operating Base Jackson, Sangin district, Helmand province. (DoD Photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan (December 28, 2011) — With 53 little, smiling faces in attendance, members of Female Engagement Team 8 joined Afghan National Security Force troops recently to host a children’s shura aboard the base in Sangin district, Helmand province.
During the shura, which is a formal Afghan meeting, the children were taught various lessons and given the opportunity to vocalize any concerns they had of their communities.
In attendance to lead the shura were five Afghan troops, a local teacher, the ministry of justice and FET-8.
The Afghans talked with the children about the importance of not planting poppy or placing improvised explosive devices in the roads. They explained the role of ANSF troops in Sangin to protect them and prevent illegal activities. They also discussed why it is important to become good members of their society and gave them classes on the alphabet and counting numbers.
To end the classroom portion of the shura, the ANSF troops put on a puppet show for the children. The troops wore decorated socks and on their hands and used stuffed animals while they squatted behind a make-shift stage, using the show to demonstrate to the children all the talking points they had gone over throughout the morning. The show ended on a positive note, telling the children to grow up to become doctors and teachers, not insurgents.
“I care about the kids over here in Sangin, so I come over here all the time to help the kids and let them know about the future for them to become someone good,” said 1st Sgt. Naibi Sefatullah, a volunteer from the Afghan National Civil Order Police. “I am here to also give them information about the IEDs, Taliban and bad people, who (the bad people) are and what they do.
“The kids are the future of Afghanistan, that is the main reason that I am here,” Sefatullah added.
Bright-eyed and eager after their first puppet show, the children then went to play soccer with both American and Afghan service members.
“We’re here to help and engage with the local populace,” explained Cpl. Brandy Bates, a FET-8 team member.
The team hosts children’s shuras every Friday, led mainly by Afghan forces, to help build rapport for the Marines and their Afghan counterparts within the local community.
“Basically when we work with the ANSF, we partner with them in a lot of things,” said Bates, of Ann Arbor, Mich. “It’s great teambuilding with the Marines and ANSF.”
Another added benefit to having the ANSF troops lead the shuras is it builds a stronger and more trusting relationship amongst the Afghan residents and the Afghan military members, Bates said.
Attendance in the children’s shura is growing every week, and FET members said they hope for the number of children at the shura to continue growing in the future.
Editor’s note: Female Engagement Team 8 is working in direct support of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8 in 2nd Marine Division (Forward). The division heads Task Force Leatherneck, serving as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and working in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.